We know that client dialogues are crucial for uncovering needs, exploring solutions, establishing next steps, and building relationships.
3 Barriers to Better Client Dialogues
And yet, too many sales professionals falter in the interpersonal skills needed for open, effective, engaging client dialogues. Here are three barriers to look for so that you can adapt your approach.
- Different communication styles You might be an extrovert, and your client an introvert. Financial folks want numbers; technology groups understand systems and software; HR departments focus on the people element. How do you communicate with these different styles and information needs? The answer is to match your client’s demeanor, while still being yourself.You have to remain authentic to who you are and accommodate your client’s way of approaching business. With technology groups, your presentation should be succinct, based on solid data, with some charts and graphics to convey your message. For financial folks, the focus should be numbers and the economic benefit of pursuing your recommendation. In conversations with HR departments, you might focus on how your solution will make employees more productive.Beyond just considering job function, you should also try to pick up on what motivates your clients. Are they looking for recognition? Do they lean on you for insights? Are relationships important, or do they only want their product or service? Through the years, I’ve learned that people approach business very differently, and if you can match the way they approach the business and their decision-making process, you can eliminate those barriers.
- Reserved and secretive clients Some clients like to play things close to the vest. They won’t open up, and they won’t let you into their world. In this situation, it can take a lot longer to build the trust needed to have an honest conversation. Still, it’s well worth trying.It may take many conversations before they drop their guard to discuss their strategy or what’s important to them. But, when they do, you will typically get a treasure trove of insight into those people and what drives them.
- Truthiness Truthiness, a word coined by comedian and TV host Stephen Colbert, is similar to the truth, but it is not completely accurate or valid. It is the perfect word to define what some clients will tell you: “I am the decision maker.” “I hold the budget.” “I have responsibility for this area.” Because these assertions are not always 100% true, you need to assess what you’re told and look for ways to verify facts. Finding the truth can be challenging, and you need to be careful about how you approach this so as not to alienate your client.
Breaking down barriers can take time, as you try to whittle away clients’ protectiveness of their turf, themselves, or maybe their image. Knowing where people have been in life — education, work history, where they have lived — plays into who they are today and how sales professionals might best approach them. Sometimes, you can break down barriers with clients just by recognizing and commenting on things they’ve achieved, awards received, and progress made in their lives or their careers.
I always say: this isn’t rocket science, but not all sales professionals recognize dialogue skills to be as fundamental as they are — or as transformative as they can be.